"This is a story about how things got the way they are," according to the first words of the narrator for the documentary film Taken for a Ride. By "the way things are," the narrator means the auto-dependency, substandard public transit, and the expanses of pavement that dominate the American landscape.
The film takes American automobile manufacturers to task for dismantling the streetcar systems that provided mobility to cities in the 20th century, featuring fascinating historical footage of the old streetcars in action and testimonials from people who rode the systems in their heyday. The film argues that automobile manufacturers like General Motors deliberately sabotaged streetcar systems through service reductions and fare increases to pursue a program of motorization on its way to becoming one of the largest companies in the world's history. Eventually, the demise of the streetcar gave way to the rise of the Interstate Highway System and the suburbanization of America, and the ongoing struggle of public transit systems held hostage to the whims of the highway lobby.
One benefit of the film is that for those who regret the way things are will find solidarity with the former streetcar company workers and others who tried to stop the eventual triumph of the automobile. Taken for a Ride was first broadcast in 1996 on PBS.
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